Conditional use permits and zoning variances for a proposed $200 million wind farm have been approved by Franklin County.
The action came at a public hearing held Thursday night, Sept. 14, at the Hampton-Dumont Middle School by the Franklin County Board of Adjustment. About 100 people attended the meeting, which included outlining some details of the plans for the wind farm, which is being planned by Iowa Winds, LLC, of Iowa Falls.
The permits, with standard setbacks of 1,200 feet from residences, were approved for proposed parcels in Marion, Morgan, Hamilton, Oakland, Lee, Grant and Osceola townships. Parcels in Reeve Township also were approved, but with a stipulation of a 2,500-foot setback from public use facilities such as Mallory Park, Maynes Grove Park, and the Maysville Schoolhouse.
Parcels in Ingham Township were originally proposed as well, due to them being owned by an individual with property in other townships. Iowa Winds said those parcels could be withdrawn, and the board thus did not approve permits or variances for that township.
The conditional use permits were needed because the land in question is zoned for agricultural uses. The wind turbines to be erected do not fit within that use.
The variances were requested because of the desire to place wind turbines as close to property lines as pos-sible to eliminate building roads through the middle of fields, making them more difficult to farm. That means that some of the blades of the turbines will be closer to property lines than would normally be allowed under the county’s setback rules.
Iowa Winds secured options with land owners in the areas that it believes are potential locations for wind turbines. Officials with the county and Iowa Winds said that after the conditional use permits and variances have been approved, Iowa Winds will go back to the land owners and attempt to work out easements that will result in an efficient wind farm construction.
Those initial agreements will be for 30 years, with Iowa Winds having an option to renew for two subsequent 10-year periods. The lifespan of the turbines was reported to be about 25 years. If a farm is sold, the agreements signed stay with the farm. The agreements also require the owner of the wind farm to clean up the site when the turbines are removed.
The number of turbines to be constructed will depend on the size of units available. If the 1.5 megawatt turbines are used, some 200 are expected to be put in place. If 2.0 megawatt turbines are used, about 150 will be put in place, Iowa Winds officials said.
Questions during the hearing centered primarily on individual concerns, such as the ability to apply insecticides from crop dusters around the towers and how pipelines are crossed with the electrical cables. No one objected to the issuance of any of the permits or variances.
Kent Krause, Iowa Falls, representing Iowa Winds, said that the corporation has options on more than 40,000 acres in Franklin County, and that the group has been mapping wind speeds since 2002 using a pair of meteorological towers. He said the project would result in $500,000 in direct payments to landowners, $2 million in turbine tax revenues, and the creation of 40 full-time equivalent jobs in management, maintenance, operation and support industries.
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